My wife has a strong dislike for Chardonnay but a fond love for Chardonnay Musqué. This raised the question in my mind, what makes Chardonnay Musqué different from Chardonnay? Is there truly a discernible difference? My wife argues that absolutely there is.
I set forth on a research expedition to determine if there is a difference, and if so, why.
What I learned is that Chardonnay Musqué is an aromatic mutation of the Chardonnay grape. It is grown principally in the vineyards of Canada’s Niagara Peninsula and New York’s Finger Lakes.
The typical Chardonnay Musqué wine is off-dry, medium bodied, and has the distinctive, grapey, Muscat-like aroma. Depending on the region and producer, other flavours and aromas might range from tropical fruit to cinnamon-tinged lemon sorbet.
There are over 40 different clones of Chardonnay, but only two of these can be called “Musqué” due to their aromatic qualities. For you techies they are Clone 77 and Clone 809. These wines are generally unoaked in order to preserve the fresh and fragrant aromas natural to the grape. This is the reason why my wife likes it so much (she has a real aversion to any oaked white wine)
Several Ontario vineyards are now planted with musqué clones and the grapes may be used as either part of a blend or bottled on their own.
Generally these wines are best when consumed relatively young. The aromas of Chardonnay Musqué are reminiscent of Viognier or even Torrontes, and it can be made in a range of styles from dry to a little sweet to quite sweet, sometimes even with a slight spritz.
Chardonnay Musqué can be enjoyed on its own on a warm spring or summer day, or paired with mild curries, sushi, salads, grilled salmon, or seafood.
There are several Ontario wineries using one or both Chardonnay Musqué clones in their wines. Trail Vintner’s Weiss uses Chardonnay Musqué as part of a Riesling Chardonnay Musqué blend, while other producers, such as Chateau des Charmes, Cave Spring Cellars, and Vineland Estates, prefer to bottle the clone on its own.
A few Ontario Chardonnay Musqués:
Chateau des Charmes
Paul Bosc, founder of Chateau des Charmes, chose the particularly fragrant and interesting Clone 809 for his Chardonnay Musqué. Only about 500 cases are bottled by the winery annually. The 2015 vintage is available from the winery or online for $14.95.
Cave Spring Cellars
Cave Spring Cellars 2016 Chardonnay Musqué is made from 100% Chardonnay Musqué Clone 77. This wine is fermented in stainless steel and unoaked so as to maintain every nuance of the delightful aromatics of the Chardonnay Musqué grape. It’s a wine of refinement and class. Floral, yes, but it also offers bright citrus, tropical fruit, peach and a hint of vanilla aromas. Try it with green salads or shrimp Pad Thai. It is available from the LCBO for $17.95.
Their 2016 Chardonnay Musqué is available from the winery or online for $17.95. The wine is described as having an abundance of warm summer melon, lime zest and tangerine aromas that roll in the glass while the welcomed edge of acidity focuses and the perfect trace of a bitter finish.
Trail Vintner’s Weiss
The 2017 Riesling Chardonnay Musqué blend is available at the LCBO for $19.95. According to Natalie MacLean it is a delightful, vibrant white wine blend of Riesling and Chardonnay Musqué grapes form Prince Edward County. It has aromas of daisies, lychee, apple blossom and white peach, and is balanced with racy acidity for shellfish and vegetarian dishes.
If you are a fan of Chardonnay, and unoaked Chardonnay in particular, trying Chardonnay Musqué would be well worth your while; just ask my wife.